Gilberto Celestino really popped for the Kernels on Saturday.
The Twins' No. 21 prospect racked up a career-high five hits, including a double, and scored a run in Class A Cedar Rapids' 5-4 win over Beloit at Perfect Game Field. It was the first five-hit game for a Kernels player since June 9, 2017, when Jermaine Palacios achieved the feat against Burlington.
Video: Kernels' Celestino's fifth hit
It was also his sixth multi-hit game in the last two weeks. He matched his previous career high against Beloit just 11 days earlier, going 4-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs in a 5-2 win.
Kernels hitting coach Ryan Smith obviously never expects a player to get as many as five hits, but based off Celestino's recent success, he wasn't necessarily shocked to see it happen.
"He's been putting big games, multi-hit games, together lately," the coach said. "And we're not surprised by it. He's a great hitter. He's been doing really good lately, working hard."
Celestino led off the bottom of the first inning with a single to right field off southpaw Jhenderson Hurtado and swiped second two batters later for his 13th steal. He came back in the third and singled to left to put two men on with nobody out, but Hurtado retired the next three batters to stifle the rally.
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The 20-year-old led off the fifth with a double to left and Hurtado plunked Gabe Snyder to put the Kernels in a situation identical to the third: two on, nobody down. Just like before, however, the 23-year-old prevailed by getting the next three batters on strikes.
"He just pitched well," Smith said of Hurtado. "He had a good changeup working, kind of kept us off-balance. He made the pitches he needed to. It was a tough situation."
Celestino started another rally in the seventh with a knock to center. But with Hurtado out of the game, this time it was a different story. Five straight Cedar Rapids batters followed with singles, pushing across four runs and giving the Kernels a 5-2 advantage.
Smith doesn't care whether it comes through a series of slap singles or a flurry of more powerful extra-base hits. All that matters, he said, is that the team is able to execute.
"We're just trying to string good at-bats together, you know?" he said. "Whether it's done through doubles or home runs, or sometimes you've just got to find a couple holes."
The Dominican Republic native dropped in a bloop single to right later in the eighth for his fifth hit. While it may not have been as pretty as his other knocks, it speaks to something Smith said Celestino has improved on all season.
"He made a ton of hard outs earlier in the year, hitting the ball hard right at people, so those are starting to level out a little bit, getting those bloop hits that he didn't get earlier in the year," he said.
The performance boosted his line to .274/.345/.396 with 46 runs scored in 110 games. He's been far sharper since the Midwest League All-Star break with a .348/.416/.508 line in 46 games. The key to that uptick in production has been that aforementioned improvement in getting hits to fall.
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If that continues, Smith believes this performance -- and the last two months overall -- will do wonders for Celestino.
"It'll definitely help him," he said. "I think I mentioned earlier, like earlier in the year, he made a ton of hard outs and he was bummed out because they weren't falling. But you're starting to see that it's kind of regressing, and he's getting back to kind of getting those to fall that didn't earlier. So he's gonna keep building on that, and keep growing as a hitter."
Twins No. 19 prospect Yunior Severino drove in two runs, while reliever Brian Rapp (4-1) picked up the win after allowing two runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts in three innings.